Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What I Ate: Spicy Fridge Pickles

Whilst we wait for our garden to start producing some cucumbers, my sister asked me to make a batch using store bought cucumbers. I altered my spicy pickles recipe ever so slightly for this batch so despite this being a 'What I Ate' post, if you scroll down, there's a recipe page for you, if you're interested.
The most difficult part of making pickles is the waiting. Once they're in their jars, you have to wait a few days before they're pickled. I think this could be the ultimate motivation for making a time machine.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Platanos Maduros

The first time I had platanos maduros was when I was on holiday in Puerto Rico. They came alongside my lunch and at first, I was a little apprehensive because I hate bananas. Luckily, plantains taste much more starchy and have zero banana flavor. They remind me more of a sweet potato than a banana. They've got a lovely caramel flavor and delicious starchiness and they're really easy to make.
Ingredients:
ripe plantains (blackened skin)
brown sugar
salt
oil/butter/lard

Friday, June 26, 2015

Watermelon Granita

Let's finish off watermelon week with one last post. It's a super refreshing cooling version of watermelon. Just looking at the photos cools me down.
Ingredients [yields 6 to 8 servings]:
½ watermelon
juice of ½ lime
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup water

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Melontini

When I get home after work. I like to be as comfortable as possible so I always change into stretchy pants and a soft T or a billowy hippie dress, throw my hair up into a top knot, scrape the makeup off of my face, and then plop myself onto the couch to relax. Whilst looking like a she-beast, I tend to reach for a glass of milk to eat with a stack of cookies or I'll pour wine into a mug. I'm not usually one to shake up a fancy cocktail. But in the summer, I'm more inclined to put a little effort into my evening nightcap because the sun's out a little longer and I don't mind hanging out in the kitchen for a few more minutes after dinner.

Martinis always look super sexy but I'm too much of a wimp to drink them. Fruity martinis, on the other hand, tend to be a bit too sweet and toxically artificial. I mean, apple martinis are radioactively green, for goodness sake. However, today's melontini is bright and refreshing and super pretty but the alcohol content won't burn your brows off.
Ingredients:
ice
lemon twist
splash vermouth
2 oz. vodka (or gin, if you're a gin martini kind of guy/gal)
4 oz. watermelon juice (which I explained how to make in the inebriated melon post)
melon ball garnish

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Watermelon Hors D'Oeuvres

Savory watermelon preparations used to creep me out. But, once I fell in love with watermelon and feta salads, I've been all about finding ways to enjoy watermelon for dinner.

Since we're in the thick of summer and it's all about picnics and parties in the backyard, I was thinking about pretty party food and I came up with these really simple but super delicious starters.
Ingredients:
italian
watermelon balls, cut in half
fresh mozzarella, bocconcini cut in half
basil leaves

mexican
watermelon balls
cilantro leaves
jalapeno slices

greek
watermelon balls
mint leaves
cucumber slices
feta crumbles

+ toothpicks

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Inebriated Melon

We've come deep enough into the season that it's so warm that my dog will try and snuggle while I'm sat on the sofa watching television but after maybe four seconds, he decides it's too hot and starts kicking me, as if I was the one that sidled up next to him. Of course, I feel so badly that he's got a permanent fur coat on so I oblige and move away to give him some air, even if means I'm squished up to one side of the couch.

The good news is that because he's exiled me to the side of the couch, he's not all up in my business, resting his head on my wrists as I fiddle with my laptop. What can he say? He's just a needy, affection-craving pooch who wants to be right next to his family, except when it's hot.

With my dog-less wrists free to type, I am ready to tell you about this refreshing cocktail. And even though alcohol dehydrates you, this one's full of delicious watermelon juice, which is ultra hydrating and amazing for your skin. So I think we can put this in the category of healthy cocktails, right?
Ingredients:
2 oz. clear rum
1 oz. cucumber juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice (½ oz.)
4 oz. watermelon juice
mint sprig

Monday, June 22, 2015

Chilled Watermelon

Nothing screams, "It's summer!" quite like watermelon. Once it's warm, it's constantly on sale at the market and I'm always craving it.

So, this whole week is going to be dedicated to this gorgeous fruit.
And today, we'll start with how to break down a melon.
Ingredients:
1 ripe watermelon
sharp knife
melon baller
large bowl (non-metal)

Friday, June 19, 2015

What I Ate: Pesto Flatbread with Arugula Salad

Whilst we were in Genoa back in April, my sister and I stumbled upon a market. Genoa is well known for its pesto, as pesto was born there, so there were several pesto stalls lined up. We sampled a few and the one that made us go wide-eyed and happy was purchased immediately. Unfortunately for us, traveling by air and the fear of going through customs and having our treasures taken away limited our purchase volume so we settled on two small 100 ml jars of green pesto and one small 100 ml jar of red pesto.

It's been a couple of months since we've returned but we finally had a reason to break out some pesto. Seeing as it's been prime grilling weather lately, we fired it up, grilled some pizza dough, and made some awesomely savory flatbreads. I slathered each slab with a generous spoonful of delicious (and genuine) Genovese pesto, piled on some arugula salad, and finished the flatbreads off by dotting them with grilled sausage half-moons and a generous sprinkle of crushed pepper flakes.
I'm quite determined to work on my own pesto recipe to get it closer to the real thing, but in the meantime, if you're not in Italy and you want to make your own, my recipe is a decent substitute. The pizza dough is my old favorite standby, though these days, the grocery sells a pretty good premade version if you want to make your life easier. The arugula salad is the simple one I shared last week. And the sausage is just storebought stuff that was chucked on the grill until plump and charred.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Dole Whip Floats

Back in 2011, one of my favorite cousins was living in LA but getting ready to move to Texas. In order to take advantage of her LA status one last time, my sister and I went out to visit her for a week over the summer. On our itinerary was a visit to Disneyland and California Adventure. The main reason we were keen on going was to see the World of Color show (which was amazing) but we were also pretty keen on having some fun theme park food. (By the way, the Fantasmic show is also awesome.)

We made a list of foods we had to try, which we compiled after some internet research. The list included turkey legs and giant pickles - both were consumed and enjoyed - but the one I was most excited about was the Dole Whip Floats. I'm a huge fan of pineapple (I love most tropical and summery fruits: coconut, mango, guava, passionfruit, etc.) and it was a warm day so a frozen treat was definitely in order. We all opted for the floats (instead of the plain Dole Whip) because we were looking for something to simultaneously cool us down and quench our thirsts and it was awesome.

Since I have no immediate plans to visit any of the Disney parks (though if I did, I'd want to go to Euro Disney and also eat my way through France again), I opted to try my hand at making a batch of Dole Whip Floats at home. Because it's been four years since I had the real thing, I honestly have no idea if these come close. What I do know is that this homemade version is still friggin' delicious.
Ingredients [yields 4 to 6 floats]:
20 oz. can crushed pineapple in juice (not in heavy syrup)
1 teaspoon lime zest
½ teaspoon lemon zest
juice of 1 lime
½ cup sugar
1½ cups heavy cream
46 oz. can pineapple juice
+ pineapple or coconut rum (for a grownup option)
The happiest place on earth!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

What I Ate: Grilled Nachos

Grilled nachos are the ultimate summertime snack.
This time around, I made a spicy queso to drizzle on instead of grated cheese and topped them with fresh pico de gallo.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Sea Salted Caramel Ice Cream

It's definitely ice cream season, right? It's hot and sticky out and the best way to cool down is to enjoy some frozen treats. I always enjoy setting up the ice cream maker and churning out a few homemade flavors every summer. This year, the first flavor I made was a sea salted caramel ice cream.

Salted caramel has become really popular in the past few years. It totally makes sense because the balance between sweet and salty is so satisfying. Obviously there are perfectly good store bought salted caramel ice creams available, but I wanted to see if I could make a more flavorful version and to be frank, I just wanted to see if I could make this deliciousness myself.

And if I'm allowed to brag, I think I did a great job.
Ingredients [yields 2 pints]:
¼ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1 cup + 1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
4 egg yolks
1 vanilla bean
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Monday, June 15, 2015

Garden Update 1

The garden this year had a bit of a slow start. We had a cold frost just a week after we planted which killed the cucumber plant and almost killed the Thai basil. But, we've since bounced back and there are a few blossoms on the pepper plants and the new cucumber we've planted is looking pretty good.
The kale has sprouted some yellow flowers, the bulbs (that we got from Italy) have mostly sprouted, the sweet basil is flourishing, my little lemon verbena plant is making white flowers, the strawberry plant is producing, and we have peonies going crazy. Mother Nature is really cool.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Lemon Verbena Cucumber Gin Fizz

While I was visiting Philly a few weeks ago, I bought a lemon verbena plant. I'd never used lemon verbena before and my only other interaction with it was at Bath & Body Works. My sister was convinced the association would make anything flavored with lemon verbena taste like soap. So, instead of experimenting and potentially ruining an entire meal, I decided to start with something simple: a cocktail.

And, since it's Friday, methinks a cocktail is crazy appropriate.
Ingredients:
10 lemon verbena leaves
2 mint leaves
3 slices cucumber
1 teaspoon sugar
ice
2 oz. gin
1 oz. lemon juice
6 oz. soda water

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Ginger Peach Mango Bellini

At the beginning of every school year, the Cornell Store had a poster sale. As a broke-as-f college student, I could rarely justify spending $8 on a piece of paper. But, I'd always go and browse. Junior year, I ended up buying a 'Periodic Table of Mixology' poster because it was on sale for $4. Yes, I remember this detail because I have a keen memory for good sales. Anyway, this poster was how I learned about my favorite cocktail: the bellini. Bellinis are known for their presence at brunches but I'm happy ordering this at any time of the day. At our favorite spot in Collegetown, Stella's, I'd always order a bellini with a maraschino cherry (and then tip according to how many extra cherries the bartender tossed in).

In the past few years, I have significantly reduced the amount of alcohol I consume, just because of my age (I make it sound like I'm ancient but I'm still in my 20s) and for my health. But I haven't cut it out completely and I will never refuse an opportunity to cheers with a sweet, bubbly bellini. I thought I would put a fun and summery twist on the classic by adding some ginger and mango because why not?
Ingredients [serves 8 to 12]:
2" knob of ginger
2" piece of lemon zest
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
1 cup frozen peaches (6 to 8 slices)
½ cup frozen mango chunks
2 bottles prosecco (or champagne or bubbly white wine of your choice)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Diced Radish Kimchi | Kkakdugi (깍두기)

I haven't shared any Korean recipes in over a month. And it's not like my blog is meant to be a Korean food blog, but considering that I eat Korean food for at least 50% of my meals, it would seem like I'd share a lot more of it here, right? I'm thinking I should do some more Korean barbecue related posts, seeing as it's summer and we're in the thick of grill season.

In the meantime, I hope this kimchi recipe will suffice. Kkakdugi is one of my favorite types of kimchi. I think it's the texture that does it for me because it's satisfyingly crunchy. Because of this, I think it's best enjoyed with soups because of the texture contrast but it's also an awesome side dish for jjajangmyun and it's super delicious with a simple bowl of rice.

The best thing about making kkakdugi is that it's crazy easy. There's no rinsing, no rice flour, no special techniques or equipment involved in the process. The salt sprinkled on in the beginning isn't soaked forever and then rinsed off (the way it is even with quick cabbage kimchi) because it's big cubes of radish and the salt is necessary for seasoning through the center (like pickles). There's no rice paste or thickening agent because the seasoning sticks to the radish easily (unlike with cabbage kimchi where it tends to "slide" off). And since it's just cubes, you just need a knife and cutting board (unlike julienned radish kimchi which requires a mandolin).
Ingredients:
4 lbs. Korean daikon radish (usually one large radish is about 4 lbs.)
3 tablespoons coarse salt (sea salt is what I prefer)
3 tablespoons sugar (white or brown)
½ cup hot pepper flakes (gochugaru; add more or less depending on your spice preference)
2 tablespoons grated ginger
2 tablespoons minced garlic
8 scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons fish sauce

Monday, June 8, 2015

Lemon Limeade

When I was a kid, every summer I wanted to set up a lemonade stand. I didn't want to do it for the money (though that was a perk). I just wanted to do it because I always saw kids on sitcoms doing it and it looked like fun. There was one time that my mom finally caved and let me take some plastic cups outside along with a pitcher of lemonade made with the powdered mix. Since we were rarely allowed sugary foods, I got overexcited and selfish and I ended up drinking all of the lemonade myself.

I think if I tried to open up a lemon limeade stand with the recipe I'm sharing today, I'd definitely end up doing the same thing. I'd drink all of the merchandise myself because it's so good. I love the combination of lemons and limes. It's tart and sweet and fruity and quintessentially summery.
Ingredients:
1½ cups sugar
1½ cups water
8 to 10 limes
4 to 6 lemons
6 to 8 cups water

Friday, June 5, 2015

Spaghetti Alle Vongole

So whilst I was in Italy, I probably had spaghetti alle vongole at least five times. And take note that I was only there for nine days. I had it during my first meal and I became obsessed.

I knew I was going to have to recreate the dish when I got home except a few days after returning from holiday, I was sent to Massachusetts for work. So, I had to put my kitchen experimenting on hold for a few weeks. But, as soon as I got back, I went to my favorite seafood market and bought a bunch of clams so I could relive my favorite Italian dish.
Ingredients [serves 4]:
1 lb. spaghetti
3 dozen clams
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves crushed garlic
2 teaspoons crushed pepper flakes
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup white wine

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Tostones & Grilled Chicken

When I was in Philly a few weeks ago, we went to this awesome Mexican restaurant and I ordered this amazing grilled chicken dish. For dinner a few nights ago, we'd planned on making salsa chicken but we didn't have any cheese so I thought I'd try and remake that awesome grilled chicken. While grabbing some ingredients out of the fridge, I also found a plantain that my sister had bought so I made some tostones.
Ingredients:
tostones
green plantains
olive oil
salt

dipping sauce
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from canned chipotles)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Arugula Salad

While I was in Italy, we had some amazingly fresh salads. And now that it's summer and there's a ton of greenery and ripe tomatoes on sale at the market, I've been recreating those amazing salads at home. There's not much to them. You just need really good and fresh produce. And no real dressing to speak of, just a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil and you're good to go.
Ingredients [serves 2 as a meal or 4 as an appetizer]:
4 cups baby arugula
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
+ bocconcini
+ parmesan shavings
+ baby tomatoes
+ croutons
+ capers
+ basil leaves
+ roasted peppers
+ sliced fennel

All you really need is the arugula, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil and even though it's super simple, it's still amazingly delicious. Anything else you want to throw on top is up to you. On this particular occasion, I went for supremely sweet tomatoes, soft fresh mozzarella, and salty parmesan cheese shavings.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Toasted Marshmallow Milkshake

Back in April, I visited DC for a weekend with my friend H. We did a lot of biking, sightseeing, and eating. One of my favorite jaunts was to the Good Stuff Eatery where I enjoyed an amazing burger and a delicious toasted marshmallow milkshake. The burger was really good, but because I'm already pretty good at making burgers, I devoted my attention to the shake and I think I did a pretty good job recreating that toasty deliciousness.
Ingredients [yields 2 shakes]:
1 pint vanilla bean ice cream
½ cup whole milk
2 cups mini marshmallows
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Monday, June 1, 2015

What I Ate: Memorial Day Weekend

I know Memorial Day weekend was last weekend but I wasn't quick enough or smooth enough to share my meals immediately after the weekend. I still wanted to share what we ate because we had some really good summery stuff. I'm sharing three grilled meals that were super delicious and a perfect kickoff to the season.
We started with stacked burgers on Saturday night.
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